Paul Eisen

Paul Eisen

Monday, 26 November 2012

Bye, Bye Ehud Barak

Bye, bye Ehud Barak.

I must say I've always found him one of the most unpleasant Israeli politicians.

I remember Israel Shamir once writing somewhere that, while he could well imagine Ariel Sharon some day sharing a plate of hummus with a Palestinian neighbour, he could never see the same with Ehud Barak.

Then I recall Afif Safeh, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK at the time, recalling that the decorations this 'most decorated officer in the IDF' received would have been gained in that dirtiest of dirty wars in Lebanon in the eighties when Barak was involved in some of the most horrendous covert actions.

I think he's a mean, spiritless little man and I hope I never see his face again.

Ehud Barak announces retirement from political life

In a dramatic press conference, the Defense Minister, who has seen a recent spike in popularity following Operation Pillar of Defense, announces he will not run in the upcoming Israeli elections; Netanyahu says he respects Barak's decision.

     by Jonaothan Liss - Haaretz

Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Photo by Moti Milrod

Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday that he will retire from political life and will not run in the upcoming Israeli elections.

Speaking during a surprise press conference which he convened on Monday morning, Barak said he was resigning in order to spend more time with his family. "There are many ways to contribute to the state, politics isn't the only one," Barak said.

"My decision to retire stems from my desire to devote that time to my family, and also because I have never felt that politics was the height of my ambition," Barak said. "I believe that it is important to make way for fresh faces – a turnover in positions of power is a good thing."

"I made the decision not without qualms but ultimately with a whole heart," he said. He added that he will continue to serve as defense minister until the next elections. "I will step down from my position as defense minister once a new government is assembled in three months."

When asked whether he could serve as the next defense minister as a non-elected official, he said the question is "irrelevant."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on Barak's retirement, saying he respects his decision and thanks him for their mutual cooperation. Netanyahu added that he appreciates his long-term contribution to the security of Israel.

Labor head Shelly Yacimovich expressed her regret at Barak's retirement, saying that "the world's most decorated soldier, and one of the most highly regarded security officials worldwide, has done more for the IDF and for the state's security than the public will ever know."

Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein said in response that "today is Likud's independence day. Barak will go down in the history of Israel's governments as the worst defense minster the Jewish settlements have ever had."

Barak's popularity waned of late, with polls showing Atzmaut failing even to gain one seat in 2013 elections. However, following a recent spike in popularity following Operation Pillar of Defense, more recent polls show the former defense minister gaining foiur parliamentary seats.

Ehud Barak, center, as a young IDF soldierIDF Spokesman

 The Knesset's outgoing term was one of the more complex in Barak's political life. The former prime minister, who stood at Labor's helm during the previous elections, crushed the party, which went from 19 to 13 parliamentary seats, making it the Knesset's fourth largest party, after Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu.

That meager achievement sparked an un-ending row within Labor ranks. While many MKs demanded to stay in the opposition, Barak was negotiating the possibility of joining a cabinet headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In January 2011, almost two years since the cabinet was formed, and after he realized that he lost the support of most of his party, Barak broke away with labor, forming a new faction, Atzmaut –with four other MKs – Matan Vilnai, Orit Noked, Eiant Wilf, Shalom Simchon and, upon Vilnai's appointment as Israel's envoy to China, Shachiv Shnaan – and joining Netanyahu's coalition.

Barak served as the IDF's chief of staff between 1991 and 1995, and also served as interior minister, under then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and foreign minister, under former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

In 1999, he was voted prime minister in Israel first, and only, direct election of the head of state. His tumultuous tenure, which included the onset of the Second Intifada in 2000 and Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, ended prematurely in 2001, with the election of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, prompting Barak's exit from political life.

He returned to politics in 2005, serving as defense minister under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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